x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Arabs question America's account of bin Laden's death

From 'great news' to 'he isn't even dead', the word on Arab streets goes both ways, as people ask questions over a missing body.

Some called him a murderer whose death would reduce violence in the Middle East. For others he was a hero who stood up to a country viewed as a ruthless invader.

The reactions on the Arab street yesterday to the killing of Osama bin Laden were as diverse as the views - from approving praise to bitter hostility - of America's involvement in the Middle East.

Many who condemned the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan doubted that the al Qa'eda leader had been killed, and accused Washington of fabricating his death to boost Barack Obama's image at home and abroad.

Maha, a 27-year-old accountant in Damascus, said: "Obama is facing an election very soon and is looking for any victory to convince his people to vote for him."

Maryam S, a 24-year-old from Abu Dhabi, said bin Laden should not have been executed without a trial. "Doesn't the world follow a law? If they follow the law, then they should take him to court, even if the ruling is for him to be beheaded," she said.

"I think the US distorted bin Laden's image as a terrorist until it reached the minds of people that he was a terrorist."

Others hoped that bin Laden's death might signal a shift from violence towards the peaceful protests that have characterised the revolutions across the region as a way to trigger change, and said it provided a boost for the US-led fight against terror.

Lama Ali, a 20-year-old history student at Damascus University, said he was "so happy" when he heard of the US raid. "The United States attacked Afghanistan and Iraq under the slogan of fighting terrorism and bin Laden. His death has sent a big message for all terrorists in the world that one day, even if after 10 years, they will get their punishment," he said.

But other supporters of the US operation were concerned that bin Laden's death was not enough to eradicate al Qa'eda.

Sheikh Obeid al Jabouri, a tribal leader from the Iraqi city of Ramadi, said it was a “moral victory” for those fighting against al Qa’eda’s ideology.

“But with his death, the fight is not over. Every time an al Qa’eda leader is killed, another comes along to replace him.”

Some were sceptical because the US had not shown bin Laden’s body, but buried it at sea.

Sami, who tweets under the name jar7_mansy, wrote: “There are two things in life which you will never see: 1) a video of Osama bin Laden dead 2) the recording for the black box for the September 11 planes.”

Mohammed Rahman Youssef, a 25-year-old Egyptian graduate student, was one of many sceptics in Cairo yesterday.

“There is a missing link in this chain of events. Where is the body? And the story of them tracking the courier is just unbelievable,” he said.

Salma Al Suleimany, a fashion designer in Oman’s capital, Muscat, said: “The US would have made a show of his body by inviting international media, especially Al Jazeera – which many of us believe – if it was genuine news.”

Shayma B, a university student in Al Ain, said the killing was a sign of defeat.

“Of course many family and friends agree with this,” she said. “We are not happy at all.” She feared the death heralded a war against Muslims.

Some were fearful of revenge attacks by al Qa’eda.

Firas Abu Assi, 32, who sells parking tickets at a public park in Jordan, said he felt “tense because the reaction to bin Laden’s death may be very violent”.

At a cafe in Zarzis, the port city in southern Tunisia, a man who identified himself as Bashir said, as he sat with two friends and drank coffee: “Even if Osama bin Laden was the most savage person in the world, as long as he is against the Americans then I support him.”

His friend Khalid said: “He at least did something to represent Islam in the face of the Americans.”

There was discontent at the jubilant tone of the reaction in America.

Hazza Mubarak from Dubai, who tweets under the name Hazza3M, wrote: “Is it appropriate to be happy about Christians killing a Muslim, even if he was wrong?”

He said Muslims should respect a fellow Muslim.